Ah, pregnancy. That wondrous time for soon-to-be mothers or soon-to-be-mothers-again that brings so many physical changes, it can be compared to going through puberty again. Not that the symptoms are the same, but the feeling of trying to figure out your body is. Trying to pay attention to the different phases I’ve experienced, and relying a bit on the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to help me, I’ve begun to chronicle some of the stages I’ve experienced for future reference, and to possibly give someone else an idea of what to expect.
I know that all pregnancies are different, and mine has (thankfully) not been anywhere NEAR as “adventurous” as it could have been; it’s just been helpful for me to take note of these magical phases as I navigate this new experience for the first time.
So, stages of pregnancy, as I’ve experienced them are currently as follows:
Stage 1: Oblivion.
Apparently most women don’t know they’re pregnant until about 6 weeks after conception unless they’re tracking it closely and their cycles are at least a tad predictable (mine weren’t at the time), and even then, once pregnancy is confirmed, the pregnancy clock starts ticking from before you could have possibly been pregnant. (I’m told that this makes it an even 40 weeks or something? Turns out, I know absolutely nothing about the human body or how it works or why it does what it does.) So I didn’t get my pregnancy confirmed until I was nearly at my 3 month mark. I’m okay with that.
Stage 2: Sour Stomach. No appetite. And all smells are poignant and awful.
My husband and I were moving. A symptom I call “sour stomach” hit the very day we spent all day driving across the country. So I assumed that it was just a type of motion sickness. When it didn’t go away a few days after the movement stopped, I put two and two together and took another pregnancy test. Yep.
We were living with my in-laws at the time in-between houses. One morning, my husband cooked some bacon. This is not unusual for him. And the smell of bacon is usually a good thing. But that morning, I was sure something had to be wrong. Was the bacon rancid? Did he burn it? I’d never smelled bacon so strongly, and it had never smelled so awful.
I realized later that sensitivity to smells is a possible symptom of the pregnancy hormone in the first trimester or so. The gas stove, the dog that was allowed in certain parts of the house, all the smells hit me with rude vehemency. All smells were strong; no smells were good. This, coupled with the sour stomach, made eating a chore. When my sour stomach became particularly noticeable, it meant it was time to eat, and curling into a fetal position always sounded more preferable, no matter what once favorite foods I mentally reviewed. Once I ate, I found eating to be tolerable, but the thought was disheartening. This stage lasted about halfway into my second trimester.
Stage 3: My allergies are oddly worse this summer. Wait. That’s pregnancy?
When my nose became particularly itchy, I assumed that it was just that time of year. And it was. I had never been prone to allergies, but I had experienced them from time to time. Never quite this badly or this much, though. Still, it was June. Tis the season.
It wasn’t until flipping through my “What to Expect” book that I found that, yup, sensitive allergies were ANOTHER possible side-effect of pregnancy. Rude.
Stage 4: Fat. Not pregnant-looking.
I helped my sister-in-law put together a baby shower for my other sister-in law. While eating and talking, the nearly-due mother and I began talking about pregnancy and how we were both doing in our different stages. One of the other guests standing nearby commented to me, “I didn’t even know you were pregnant!”
Translation: I just assumed you were fat.
Turns out there’s no right way around the pregnancy question. If you ask a girl if she’s pregnant and she’s not, bad day. If you assume a girl is fat and not pregnant when she is, still bad day. I was really happy when I began to look obviously pregnant and not just heavy around the middle.
Stage 5: Baby moves! And Braxton-Hicks
Suddenly baby likes to move all over the place. The first time I felt something that I knew was the baby and not gas, I was about halfway into my second trimester, just laying down for the night. Since then, baby seems to like to try to repeat the Zumba moves that I sometimes do in class. I notice her mostly when I’m still, but they say that movement lulls the baby to sleep, and being stationary cues it to wake up.
I find myself trying to guess what she’s doing in there: Riding a bike? Spreading out her limbs all at once? Whoah! Somersault! Hiccups. Definitely hiccups. Stretching. Maybe she’s just rolling over in her sleep?
I didn’t know what Braxton-Hicks were until about a month after I started getting them. Imagine the lining of your womb suddenly turning to iron. It feels similar to what I imagine suddenly having your stomach turn into a bowling ball would feel like. Not painful, but definitely . . . interesting. I notice them the most when I stand up and begin moving as time continues and they start to become more frequent.
Stage 6: Backaches. Appetite returns!
It’s so nice to have hunger feel like hunger again and not death. But unfortunately, with the return of my appetite has come the return of my sweet tooth. I mean, I’ve always had one, but when it left, I was excited at the prospect of having it gone and what that would meant to me. Earlier I found that smaller portions were much more satisfying, but now I find myself munching a lot.
Appetite returning isn’t too bad. The annoying part is the BACK. If I sit for too long, lay on one side for too long, or stand for too long, it feels like the muscles in my back are trying to pull away from my spine, and it’s hard to get rid of. Often, a simple position change doesn’t quite fix it. Massages and warm baths have worked miracles.
Stage 7: Restless Legs
I’ve heard that people experience different variations of this. It doesn’t necessarily feel like I need walk when this sensation hits, it just feels like I want to stretch my legs really badly, or else beat them with a rubber mallet until they behave. If I do neither, the uncomfortable sensation grows and they want to twitch or spasm. Apparently it only really hits when you need to be still or you’re trying to go to sleep. It’s not an every night thing for me, thank goodness, but when it does hit, grrrrrr.
And lately, perhaps with me being outside a little more, I’ve noticed a return of my stuffy nose and allergies. Occasionally my ears plug up. My acne has returned with near high-school force, though I have fond hope it will decline in the last few months of pregnancy. Moments of impressive fatigue have been sprinkled throughout the entirety of my pregnancy. And one week I had pins and needles stomachaches that weren’t all that excited to go away. All normal symptoms of pregnancy, I’m told.
Conclusion? There are no physical perks to pregnancy. Your body is totally just figuring things out at your expense for baby’s sake.
The perks are when a gentleman lifts the 40 lb. bags of rock salt for you and then sends his son to follow you to your car so you don’t have to unload them. Or when you magically find a maternity parking spot outside Best Buy or Barnes&Noble. Or when your husband gives you more back rubs than usual to combat the stiffness, or when you’re mesmerized for a moment when you hold up a newborn onesie and imagine a tiny body filling it. (That feeling is WEIRD. Especially for me, being a first timer.)
In the meantime, it’s good to know what to expect physically. Life never fails to be an adventure.